Most anglers spend a portion of their time dreaming of fishing road trips. Some dream trips are very attainable. Others might be pipe dreams never realized by the average angler.
We can’t help with the trips to faraway exotic locations, but there are many areas right here in the state for fantastic road trips, and, best of all, they are very doable for most everyone. Here is a look at seven such Hoosier fishing spots to help plan an epic road trip this month.
Coho salmon and other sportfish begin congregating close to shore in the spring and provide excellent fishing opportunities for boaters and shore anglers alike. Cohos are estimated to make up some 90 percent of the catch at this time of year. The best fishing occurs within a 2-mile band of the shore.
Trolling is by far the most used tactic. If the water is still cool, baits such as Rapalas, Thundersticks, X-Raps and other similar baits work great. Trolling spoons is another good option. If running multiple rods, use planer boards, Dipsy Divers or downriggers to spread the field and keep lines from tangling. Bright colors work best.
When the water warms above 40 degrees, switch to a dodger and fly setup. Use a bright orange 6-inch dodger with a peanut fly tied onto a stiff 14-inch leader. Match the color of the fly to conditions. Use dark flies when fishing early, late or with overcast skies. Use brighter colors when it is sunny and clear.
Early trolling should focus near the Inland Steel plant and local hot spots “The Hole” and “The Corner.” As the water warms, cohos typically begin moving eastward, spreading out and eventually moving toward deeper water. Ask locals about an area known as “The Shoals.”
If You Go
Marina Shores in Portage has excellent facilities for boaters and anglers alike. There is a 255-slip marina, and the fish cleaning station is state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly. Marina Shores received a state honor in 2015 as a “clean marina” by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Hit the upper end of the lake to find post-spawn crappies feeding up after the rigors of the spawn. This end of the lake warms the earliest, so fish here come out of the spawning areas quicker than the lower end. Sugar Creek and Miller Holler are two top spots for locals.
Look for crappies to be relating to brush anywhere from shallow water out to about 10 to 15 feet deep. There is a lot of woody structure in this area to hold papermouths.
Channel edges and points with wood or brush are excellent places to target.
Let the fish pick the bait and tactic. If they are biting aggressively, throw a Blakemore Road Runner or twister-tail grub. If the fish are slow to bite, try slow-rolling the Road Runner or vertical jig over cover with a Slab Daddy or feather jig. A tube jig tipped with a minnow or Berkley Crappie Nibble is also good.
Minnows produce plenty of bites and often outperform artificial baits. However, the artificial baits typically produce the bigger slabs for which Monroe is known. There are abundant crappies over 10 inches and good numbers up to 15 inches and larger.
If You Go
The Avoca State Fish Hatchery in Avoca, Ind., is close enough to be worth a short diversion from fishing. The hatchery produces lots of warmwater species including largemouth bass, bluegills, redear sunfish and black crappies. The hatchery produces up to one million fish per year to be stocked in state waters.
The tailwater below the McAlpine Dam is a fantastic spot for boaters and bank anglers alike. Numerous species of fish congregate there, and a mixed creel is possible almost any time of year, but right now is a perfect time for a big catch.
Throw cut shad or skipjack herring to tempt the river’s monster catfish as well as some hefty hybrid striped bass, which are very plentiful and quality size. Cast the cut bait into the current and let it drift downstream as far as possible, then reel in and cast again. Bank anglers may want to suspend the bait beneath a float while boat anglers often simply put the baits out and drift.
A variety of fish such as hybrids, walleyes, bass and crappies are often caught by throwing crankbaits, swimbaits, curly-tails or stickbaits resembling shad or minnows.
If You Go
After a day on the water, this area is a dream trip for angler shopping. The third-largest Bass Pro Shops in the country is in Clarksville, and just across the river in Louisville is a large Cabela’s. Numerous other tackle stores — chains and locally owned — are within minutes of the river.
CECIL M. HARDEN LAKE
This lake is located in the Raccoon State Recreation Area (SRA) and is known by many as simply Raccoon Lake. Anglers wanting lots of action and plenty of hookups need look no farther. There are abundant white bass at this lake, and they are more than willing to stretch a line.
White bass congregate in small and large schools and feed on the abundant forage in Raccoon Lake. Use electronics to locate wads of baitfish and schools of feeding white bass in open water or near points and the mouths of coves. Cast small- to medium-size crankbaits, lipless cranks, minnow-imitating hard baits, swimbaits, small spinners or twistertails with a lightweight spinning setup.
As water warms, look for surface action to dictate white bass locations. The same baits mentioned earlier are great for surface and subsurface feeding fish. If white bass are hard to find, try trolling slowly with various baits at different depths until getting bit, then stop and cast to the school until action subsides.
If You Go
The Raccoon SRA has fishing boat rentals available for anglers who do not have their own or do not want to trailer them to the lake. There is also a fishing pier for shore anglers and a campground for overnight trips.
This lake near Indiana’s eastern edge is loaded with black bass and provides great fishing for largemouths and smallmouths. Even better is the fact the lake is lengthy, lying mostly along a north and south direction. This often means diversity in water temperature, so anglers find bass in various stages of the spawn simply by moving up or down the lake.
Hit the northern end of the lake and throw crankbaits, spinnerbaits and soft plastics to shoreline cover to target largemouths. Largemouths are well distributed in the lake, but there is ample habitat favorable to largemouths here, and they are often found near cover on banks with a gentle grade.
Smallmouths are most numerous below the Fairfield Causeway. Target the ample riprap, chunk rock, submerged roadbeds and old building foundations with crankbaits, soft plastics and jigs resembling crawfish.
If You Go
There are nine launches on Brookville Lake. Quakertown Marina at the north end of the lake is angler friendly with fuel, supplies and boat rentals.
It would almost be a sin to discuss epic fishing outings without including bluegills, which are a favorite target of young and old alike. These feisty panfish are loads of fun, a great challenge on ultralight tackle and delicious on the table. What more could one want?
Salamonie has plenty of bluegills and is a popular spot with anglers, so to get in on the best action, anglers need to go the extra mile. Most of the bluegills caught at the lake range from 5 to 8 inches, but there are plenty of bigger fish present, some reported up to 11 to 12 inches. To target these fish, anglers need to get away from the shoreline and hit areas not pounded daily by other anglers.
Look for the bigger ’gills to be in deeper water, 6 to 10 feet deep, and relating to brush, wood or other cover. Just like other sportfish, bigger bluegills often prefer to be on a point or edge where they can easily move up or down as conditions warrant. The water level fluctuates a lot in the spring, so try to pick fishing times when the water level is stable or slightly on the rise.
A cricket suspended beneath a slip-float is hard to beat, but some anglers like to target bigger bluegills with artificial baits such as small jigs or “bluegill bugs.”
If You Go
Ten other fishing ponds are on the Salamonie property. All are stocked with bluegills. Hominy Ridge Lake has populations of bluegills and redears, but check for special regulations on these panfish before fishing.
ST. JOSEPH RIVER
The St. Joseph River is stocked with Michigan-raised walleyes by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and is somewhat of a hidden gem within the state. Anglers in Indiana often hit many of the state reservoirs in search of marble eyes, but the St. Joe has plenty of walleyes throughout a wide size distribution.
There are ample options for catching walleyes on the river, but conditions will often dictate when and where to use them. One of the most popular methods is to look for turbulent water and then target the downstream seam where the swift water meets slack water. Bouncing a jig tipped with a fathead minnow on the bottom right on the current seam can be productive.
Another option is trolling nightcrawlers along the channel edge or other bottom contour changes, especially early or late in the day. Use bottom bouncers or nightcrawler rigs when fishing bottom. At other times, simply putting a nightcrawler or minnow below a bobber and floating with the current is productive, as is casting crankbaits, jerkbaits or spinners with a twistertail.
If You Go
A great side trip when fishing the St. Joe is a visit to the Bodine State Fish Hatchery in Mishawaka. Here the DNR raises some 275,000 Skamania steelhead trout and 90,000 coho salmon for stocking into Indiana waters. The hatchery has a visitor center that, among other things, focuses on the St. Joseph River Trout and Salmon Program.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
Don’t be just a dreamer. These trips are not cost prohibitive for most Hoosiers, and they make excellent outings for a day, a weekend or a vacation week. Put off the yard and other tasks for a bit and get out there and enjoy some awesome Indiana fishing this month.